'Game of Thrones' Season 6 Teaser: Why Bran's Return Is So Important

Game of Thrones Bran Stark Still - H 2015
Courtesy of HBO

Game of Thrones Bran Stark Still - H 2015

[Warning: This story contains spoilers through Game of Thrones season five, as well as projections about season six based on events from the books.]

Ever since the Game of Thrones season five finale in June, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) fans have been left waiting in the wind, wondering if the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch would survive his brutal betrayal at the hands of his sworn brothers.

Now imagine how Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) fans feel.

The young hero has been missing in action ever since season four, entirely absent from the show's Emmy-winning fifth year. He was last seen alongside his companions, gentle giant Hodor (Kristian Nairn) and fierce warrior Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick), at the foot of a mystical wizard who promised broken Bran that while he would never walk again, "[he] will fly."

Since then? Not even a slight sign of Bran — not in flight, not at all … at least not until now.

What HBO's first season-six teaser trailer lacks in new footage, it more than compensates with tantalizing possibilities about Bran's future. Yes, it's exciting to once again see Jon Snow at the forefront of the Thrones marketing campaign, but the return of Bran after 10 episodes on the bench breathes all new life into theorizing for fans.

While the show has mostly exhausted author George R.R. Martin's five published A Song of Ice and Fire novels — or at least the major beats — there remains one final Bran chapter, as well as curious Bran sightings, left unadapted.

In A Dance With Dragons, the fifth and most recent book in the series, Bran begins to learn the arts of "skinchanging" and "greenseeing," essentially the ability to inhabit the bodies of other living beings, and the ability to navigate extraordinary visions, respectively. He trains at the knee of the Three-Eyed Raven (played in season four by Struan Rodger, replaced by Max von Sydow for season six), a tree-bound mystic whose voice is heard in the season six teaser.

"We watch, we listen, and we remember," he says. "The past is already written. The ink is dry."

These are important words, as Bran's final chapter in Dance sees him experiencing visions of the past, such as his late father Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) in the woods outside of Winterfell. Likewise, the season-six teaser comes packed with iconic scenes from previous seasons, including Ned's death in King's Landing, Jon's "death" at the Wall, and myriad other events.

Framing these famous moments in Thrones lore with words of wisdom from Bran's teacher and Bran himself strongly suggests an emphasis on the past as the show carves its way into an unknown future. It aligns with reports that key moments in Westeros history, like the fabled Tower of Joy that may or may not hold the key to Jon Snow's true lineage, might be represented in season six, perhaps through Bran's time-tripping narrative.

Indeed, for fans unable to focus on anything other than Snow's survival, perhaps the final image of the teaser provides some hope, as Bran rolls back his eyes, the hallmark sign of his warging powers. Will Jon's half-sibling use his body-hopping magic to somehow bring the hero back to life? That's been a popular Valyrian-foil hat theory ever since A Dance With Dragons' publication in 2011, but perhaps it's not too far-fetched after all, given the teaser's ending.

At this point, though, the future remains wide open. It's as Bran says: "You have no idea what is going to happen." 

Game of Thrones returns in April.